I am a great believer in the romantic comedy. There is just something so comforting and earnest about the genre. It always ends in an expected way, which makes it so dependable. I may have had a shitty day, but I can count on movies like When Harry Met Sally or While You Were Sleeping to set me right back on track. Netflix is really cashing in on this genre because it is the best genre to stream and watch at home.
They struck gold last year with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which was decently directed and well-casted. This year’s gold offering, Always Be My Maybe, is more adult than young adult, and benefits from good casting and a well-developed narrative. Visually it is not as striking as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but it is funnier. With the romantic pairing of Ali Wong (Sasha Tran) and Randall Park (Marcus Kim), funny is certainly expected. The best scenes in the movie are between the two, with their lively banter and chemistry.
The other stellar inclusion is Keanu Reeves, who plays an exaggerated version of himself. It is a portrayal so unlike the real life Keanu, which makes it all the more hilarious. Apparently Reeves improvised some of his scenes, reminding us of his talents for comedy as much as his action proclivities. You would think Park stands no chance against a suitor like Mr John Wick himself, but this is where the movie surprises you. Both Wong and Park are not our usual romantic leads, yet they make sense on screen. Individually, they are well-developed, burdened with familial emotional baggage of abandonment and loss. Together they are fire, with full-on make-out sessions against walls and in cars.
While the cinematography doesn’t inspire greatness with the lukewarm San Francisco shots, I love that the framing of the movie is centered around food. It reminds me of Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman, which has an unbeatable food preparation montage at the beginning of the movie. The first thing we see in Always Be My Maybe is a young Sasha cooking a meal for herself. It is a lonely image, but it establishes why she turned to food as a career choice in her adult years. However, this image doesn’t last long as Sasha gets an invite to Marcus’ house, with the kitchen and the dining table once again as the focus.
It is heartwarming to see the two work their way back to each other, in the process challenging and urging the other to be better, with the romantic proclamations at the end a tad cliché yet absolutely earned. It also struck me that there is a distinct lack of white characters in the movie, even Reeves is of mixed heritage (his father is Chinese-Hawaiian and an amalgamation of other ethnicities). The movie emphasizes that Wong and Park are of different Asian cultures, with food from both sides of the cultural coin offered up for our viewing pleasure.
This is the kind of romantic comedy we need, with relatable characters and the understanding that characterization guides the narrative, not the other way around. Always Be My Maybe might not supplant my top romantic comedy contenders, but it is definitely more than a maybe in my book.
Always Be My Maybe is the kind of romantic comedy we need, with relatable characters and the understanding that characterization guides the narrative, not the other way around.